Daily Mail wrong to criticise Foreign Aid

October 21, 2010

Today’s bold headline in the Daily Mail lambasts George Osborne’s decision in yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review to hit the UN target of 0.7% of Britain’s national income to Foreign Aid.

Among all the stories of job losses, pupil premiums, the pension age and police funding, this is what the Mail decided to headline with.

Criticising the decision to honour the UN’s goal and to help other countries who really know what poverty is, is pathetic.  The tone is playground stuff, wailing ‘Why should other people benefit while we suffer? It’s not fair!’

Let’s not forget why many of these countries are underdeveloped.  A people colonised, abused, manipulated and traded as slaves, then left largely to look after themselves.  Sorry, you mentioned something about fair?

The Coalition have got this one right and I applaud them for it

Right thing, Right time, Wrong Spokesperson

October 16, 2010

I’m delighted to see that Peter Robinson has tackled the Catholic Church’s hold on education in Northern Ireland  (story).  Not because I’m a bigot, but because I believe the system produces bigots.

Indeed, a true bigot would surely want the system to stay the same with Catholic children educated in Catholic schools and Protestant children educated in state (but by default Protestant) schools.

There are a number of problems with the current system.  Robinson has correctly pointed out, as I have been harping on about for years, that the current system creates segregated education which, as he terms it ‘benign apartheid’.  I’ve always wondered if we would believe America was past racism if children of different colour were educated in different schools, and yet in NI we expect to transcend sectarianism while children of different religious backgrounds are educated separately.

Indeed it isn’t until a child is 16 and entering the workplace, or 18 and entering third level education, that they are exposed to significant numbers of the religious community which they have had minimal contact with.  By that time the opinions of their peers and their parents have taken root, and, if not sectarianism then certainly suspicion has taken root.  I’ve seen it, I’ve been a part of it, and I want nothing to do with a system which educates children separately based on their religion.

It is especially dangerous for this generation who are not offered the same opportunities for cross community projects that children were ten years ago.

There’s also the problem of what is being taught – I remember a teacher in my state/protestant school teaching Irish history with a certain bias, knowing she had a certain audience.

Robinson has said the right thing, and whilst it holds power coming from the First Minister, the Catholic community need to hear it from one of their own, otherwise it might justbe spun by nationalists as a bigoted diatribe or a hypocritical ideal (like here, for example)

The SDLP need to really think about their beliefs on this one.  SF won’t back it, but Ritchie et al need to reflect the ethos of a party that did so much for NI in moving towards a shared community.


Has sin been simplified?

October 15, 2010

*Facebook note viewers, go to http://www.ulsterrambler.blogspot.com for better formatted version*

I’m not sure what I’ll call this blog post, but I’m sure I’ll think of something profound by the end of it. These past six months I’ve been struck by the Bible’s attitude to sin, which seems to call for us not to focus on defeating sin, but to focus on God, which will in turn, sour the seduction of sin.

Let’s see.

Galatians 5: 16-24

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful natureif you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of GodBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Romans 6: 11-13

Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ JesusDo not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

2 Timothy 2: 22

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Romans 12: 2 & 21

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind / Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 13: 12-14

So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature

1 Corinthians 6: 16-18

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Ephesians 5: 18

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit

And so…

And so, time after time after time, God is saying through His Word, don’t simply strive not to sin, but seek the Spirit.

Don’t settle for purity, don’t settle for anything less than the fullness of God’s goodness.

Don’t preach morality, tell them of life in the Spirit.

Don’t offer yourselves to sin, offer yourselves to God

Don’t flee only to fail again, flee to God and to His paths!

Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

So what is sin?

Is it bad stuff? Wrong stuff?

Well, yes.  But are these verses saying it’s more than that?

That sin is something that is chosen over God, and not alongside him?

That sin is when we exchange the opportunity to fellowship with the Holy Spirit for what our sinful nature wants?

Have we simplified sin to breaking God’s moral code?

What about the bit about the broken relationship with him?

What about the moment where we choose to call an old girlfriend instead of going home to our wives, i.e. when we follow our old self, and do not choose to live in our new, true identity.

What is it not to sin?

By implication of these verses, we’re not simply to not sin, to merely obey God’s moral code.

We are to live in His Spirit, to walk with His Spirit and to clothes ourselves in Christ.

It’s the difference between living and being alive.





See also: Colossians 3, 1 Thessalonians 4


History is not a whore

October 7, 2010

History is neither a whore nor, indeed, a goddess. Clio can make no promises and take no bribes. She merely records modestly and reluctantly what crimes are committed in her name – E.H. Gombrich (1970)

I found this a while ago, but thought I would share it. For me it is a wonderful encapsulation of how History ought to be treated, with respect and not manipulation.


What does a Christian wedding look like?

October 7, 2010

This is something I’ve been trying to get my head around for over a month now.  Aside from having the ceremony in a church, a prayer and a Bible reading, what does a wedding between two people who passionately love God look like?

How does it affect the ceremony?

Should there be more praise songs?  Should there be a space for people to lay hands on the couple and pray for them? Should there be more of a focus on God?

How does it affect the reception?

Should you have one?  Is it justifiable to spend that amount of money?  Jesus enjoyed feasts and parties, but what about his teaching on humility? If you decide to be more humble in it, how do you do that in such a way that people don’t think the people paying for it are tight, or that you’re tacky? Should you care? What about cars, photographers, videographers, disco-ographers?

How does affect your wedding list?

What is the theology of wedding lists?  Is it right to have a list of presents and ask people to buy them for you?  Should you ask people to donate to charity instead?  A mixture of charity and presents?

Interestingly, most people, whether of faith or not seem to begin their wedding journey with a strong desire that their wedding be different, or better, than others they have attended. However, the set up of it all seems to be geared towards a mould, a very workable enjoyable mould, but dare you step out of that? Is it wise? Is it more hassle?

Where are the discussions going on on this?


Why I’m looking forward to sex at 70

October 4, 2010

Is this the resurrection of the blog? Perhaps.  Or maybe it’s because I can’t communicate this in 140 characters.  But some thoughts on why I’m looking forward to sex when I’m 70.

Old people having sex is gross right? Well yes. And no.  I believe that the reason we think old people having sex is disgusting is because of our media/sex/porn culture saturated minds.  So for old people to have sex on TV, in a film, is quite the turn off, because we’re WATCHING. And we’re conditioned to believe that young, beautiful people having sex is a turn on.

Because as a culture we have become consumers of sex and not embracers of it, old people, fat people, ugly (as defined by media, and therefore culture, and therefore us) people having sex is not seen as particularly exciting.  So if our wife becomes old, fat or ugly, our appreciation of her diminishes.  If her body, her breasts, begin to take shape in a way that is different to what society tells us is beautiful, then we may begin to doubt that she is beautiful.  How women are portrayed in our sex saturated culture should not determine the beauty of our wives.  Rather the beauty of our wives tells us that all other women don’t do it for us, because they are not my wife.

In a porn saturated culture, the breasts that we determine to be ‘perfect’ affect how men view other women, and how they view their girlfriend/wife.  When you remove yourself from that culture (and I am enjoying a wonderful freedom in that victory), the breasts of your wife become the best breasts in the world.  No one else’s breasts match up, because they are not your wife’s!

So when I am 70, and my wife not far off it either, her breasts will still be the most beautiful in the world to me.

Abraham and Sarah were faithful and committed to each other, and to God.  Today, a couple like that, monogamous and old would hardly be seen as sexy.  Yet, Abe at 100 and his wife aged 90, they were still at it. Her pregnancy aged 90 was a miracle, but it was because her husband was still making love to her.

Society says have sex as much as you can before you get married when it dwindles.

God says wait (and in that patient waiting grows an appreciation of his plan) and then enjoy it always.

As an engaged man, and a virgin, I increasingly see the fullness of God’s goodness in his design.  I am not being denied sex by my Father, rather he is gifting it to me in that place where it should be, and in that place where it is best enjoyed and finds most fulfillment.  Next year, God willing, I embark on a journey of half a century of sex.

Society ought not to dictate how best to embrace God’s gifts.